Fifteen years ago my husband left me for another woman. Let’s call her “Ruby”. Ruby is twelve years younger than me, and a “typical Filipina”.  Both my parents are also Filipino but I was born and raised in the States.  I have only been to the Philippines twice in my life and have no plans to return.       

My husband said he didn’t leave me for her, that our marriage was over before he even set eyes on her, but I know otherwise.  

Sometimes I still hate her for what she did to my family.  We were so happy before she came into our lives.  We were a typical family living the typical American dream: a beautiful 6-bedroom house in the suburbs, three happy, well adjusted daughters, and a lifestyle that lacked for nothing.

But that was many years ago. My children are now 19, 26, and 28.  I now also have a partner:  an American–no more typical Filipinos for me with their sexist macho mentalities.  My boyfriend doesn’t earn as much as my ex-husband, but my alimony is enough for all of us.  My lawyer says this will not stop unless I get married, which I never intend to.

My problem is this. My youngest daughter is getting married next year and I just found out she intends to invite her father and that gold digger to the wedding!!  “Over my dead body,” I told her, but she said it is her wedding, not mine.

My ex’s being there will spoil the wedding for me.  I have raised her on my own since she was 4 years old, and now I have to share this momentous occasion with him? 

When my two older children got married, there was no question of my ex being invited.  They remembered how much he made me suffer and their hearts were as against him as mine was.

But my Jessica was only 4 at that time and I wanted to spare her as much pain as I could. So I never told her what he had done to us. I never shared how her father had betrayed me –betrayed us! — but I always thought she could tell.

When he and the gold digger left for the Philippines I thought we were all finally rid of him.  But his lawyer made sure I could not stop them from visiting him in the Philippines.  My two eldest were old enough to know how much pain he had caused me and they refused to go to Manila. Nothing his lawyer said or did could convince them to do so.

My youngest was too young to know what was really going on then and still thought of my ex as the blameless, perfect man he was when he still lived with us.  She went to the Philippines every year, started to consider his nieces and nephews cousins, and even once called that gold digger “Tita Ruby.”

I held my tongue then, when she called her “Tita” one time right after she came from the Philippines, but I cannot hold my tongue if she insists on inviting them both to her wedding.   Worse, I heard she asked him to walk her down the aisle and he accepted.

Now he probably expects to give the father of the bride speech as well.  My two older daughters didn’t have such speeches on their wedding days, but had beautiful weddings nonetheless. 

This is what I want my youngest to realize. She doesn’t need her father at her wedding. Her two sisters had more than adequate weddings where he wasn’t included, why not have the same kind of wedding for her?  I feel I am being punished for being reasonable all those years ago when I refrained from telling her how her “Tita Ruby” and her beloved father were actually the ones who wrecked their lives when they were young. 

Her two ates (older sisters) and I have about 18 months to work on her before she gets married.  I do not want him at the wedding, and I want her there even less. I feel I am entitled since I raised them myself, without any help from him.  Why should he be there to enjoy her happiness on her big day when he did nothing to contribute to it?  Any advice you can give us would be appreciated.  Thank you and God bless

– Annie

 

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 Dear Annie,

Often the very process of writing things down helps to clarify one’s ideas and see matters in a different light so I wonder whether after writing your letter you had any second thoughts or whether you just sent it off without further ado.

The reason is that you come across as a very embittered woman determined to have your own way, whatever the cost, and re-reading your letter might have made you reconsider your position. However, you didn’t reconsider and so perhaps I should congratulate you for your painful honesty, if nothing else.

When a relationship fails, it is very seldom that only one party is at fault. This is not to say that each is equally guilty, but there is almost always some contribution even from the “innocent” party. You tell us that your husband left you for another woman but we know nothing of the circumstances leading up to this. What we do know is that you have been playing the role of the “scorned wife” ever since.

Almost all religious and non-religious philosophies are united in recommending that those who feel they have been wronged should forgive and move on. Obsessing bitterly about the past has never been considered the true path to happiness. This by no means is to suggest that the past should be forgotten, simply that we should learn from it so that the same mistakes are not repeated.

The past influences your life both as a wife and as a mother. If you decide to live the rest of your life blaming your ex-husband for spoiling your American dream, that is your privilege. However, as a mother, you have certain responsibilities to your children, which should transcend your personal animosity towards your ex. He is their father and nothing will change this. They have inherited some of his genes and part of who they are can only be understood by knowing who he is.

This does not mean that it is incumbent upon you to paint a picture of him as a saint.  However, it does mean you temper your description of him.  Suggesting that he is the devil incarnate with no saving graces is to suggest that your children, his progeny, may well be partly devil themselves. You may wish to ask yourself if this is the message you should be imparting to your daughters.

Your account of how your daughters view your ex strikes a slightly discordant note. I do not fully understand how the two older ones can be so hostile to your ex while the youngest is much more open-minded. It seems bizarre that you spent their youth telling two that their father was a devil and yet not telling the other. And surely they must have discussed him when you were not around and realized the inconsistencies. Perhaps the older ones were just happy to go along with your version but the youngest had a more independent streak of mind and wanted to find out for herself. Anyway, you are now reaping what you have sown. You have spent years effectively insulating your youngest from your version of the truth yet you now want her to embrace it fully. It is too late and you had better accept it.

So what are you to do? It’s time to face facts. Your daughter’s wedding day is special, not for you but for her. The spotlight is on her, not you, and that is the way you should keep it. She has chosen to invite your ex and Ruby, she wants him to walk her up the aisle, she wants him to give the father of the bride speech. Who are you to let events from fifteen and more years ago sour this special occasion? Is that to be the way you show her the extent of your love and affection for her? Or are you going to show it by transcending the bitterness of the past and behaving magnanimously, even if only for a couple of hours?

Enjoy the wedding and just in case you still need to feed your bitterness, go on home afterwards and suck on a couple of large juicy lemons.

All the best,

JAF Baer 

 

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